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Archive for November, 2011

Last night I stumbled onto a very interesting programme on BBC iPlayer: Money – Who wants to be a millionaire?  I usually know how I feel about something straight away but this show has left me with mixed feelings and a million questions! The programme poses the very simple question ‘can anyone get rich if they’re dedicated and truly apply themselves?’ and follows the lives of people who dedicate their life to getting rich and teaching others how to as well.

Before I get into what the show is about, I think it’s important to place this kind of programme into a wider context. No one can deny that in the past few years the world has gone through a shift in terms of our attitude to money. I think it’s fair to say that after the credit crisis money has been demonised and at the same time glorified. Personally, recent events have made me question how the relationship between money and happiness has developed and I think we’ve seen with the recent ‘anti-capitalist’ protests (although I’m not sure this is a fair assessment of the purpose of these movements) that more and more people are looking for an alternative, more wholesome way of life.

In the beginning of the show you hear a very simple but powerful line: “there is enough money in the world to make everyone a millionaire”. This statement would make anyone think long and hard about why there are so many financial woes in the world. However, what follows is a portrayal of a part of society so obsessively capitalist I could almost call it ridiculous. At the same time, these very people consider the mainstream way of life we subscribe to ridiculous.

The show charts the lives of several people whose sole mission in life is to become financially independent. What does that mean? Simply making enough money that you can retire comfortably to the exact life style of your choice without depending on anyone ever again! Big sentence! But it can be done! As proved by the several prolific individuals featured in the show who teach others how to become millionaires. Most of the references in the show to what these people actually do to be financially independently are real estate, stocks, and teaching others how to get rich. The stock and real estate bubbles have long been burst and the teaching thing is unconvincing to me. These kind of people leave a bad taste in my mouth because it seems like all they do is exploit others. While they see it as exploiting situations, they must realise that in every situation where exploitation takes part there is also someone somewhere being exploited.

This brings me to the so called ‘students’. The show focuses on several cases: a very young couple (18), a young single teacher and a middle aged woman. All of these people are not rich but they subscribe to this method so fiercely that they can’t conceive not meeting their targets and become millionaires. In the meantime, they read hundreds of books and spend thousands or tens of thousands of pounds on attending these wealth seminars and conventions, often racking up debt in the process. This does not deter them in the least however!

I can’t say that everything in the programme is objectionable. When speaking to the people who are, or want to be wealthy, the primary reason behind their ‘life choice’ is not that they don’t want to work but that they want to be able to chose if they work or not. The desire for freedom is inherent in each of us and they stress that if a job is what makes you happy than you shouldn’t in any way subscribe to their teachings. Furthermore the people who are already rich are very aware of the value of money and most of them do not seem wasteful. However I can’t say I agree with their way of life. I am very much pro-entrepreneurship, when an idea and a need exists. However I am not convinced that the need for expensive seminars on becoming wealthy through positive thinking is a real one. It all have a very distinctive smell of brain-washing.

The ending is quite bleak. The people who are rich get richer. The people who want to get rich get poorer because they spend so much money ‘learning’ how to be rich. So what is the message? I found it particularly hard to tell. One woman who is now a ‘wealth coach’ but used to be a social worker feels like both then and now she helps people: then through her work and now through her money and time. She feels that her contribution now is greater than when she had a normal job. So is it a question of balance? Do some of us need to work and others need to make money? Personally, these people’s views about the rich and the poor, the people of leisure and the people of labour seem very feudal!

So where does the truth lie? I think this programme is well worth watching and I think what people take away from it will be different and because of that very interesting in itself!

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I used to think there’s no such thing as too much free speech. However, as I found out from my university newspaper this week…there is such a thing!! Apparently.

The article in question was a news piece about some recent student protests on campus. A small number of students had gathered in front of a careers fair being held on campus to protest against employers who supposedly supply arms to countries where human rights are being violated. The protesters were outside of the building where the fair was held and were not let into the building due to security worries. Whatever I thought of the story or the protests, the next part of the article really left me speechless (pun intended).

A ‘opinion paragraph’ from a student was also featured in this article. The student started by assuring the readers that he was a supporter of free speech as much as the next person but that he agreed with controlling the protest because we can’t have too much free speech really. Why? It might cause us to descend into a state or anarchy! Not the first time I’ve heard this ridiculous argument true but I just don’t understand how people keep making it with a straight face!

First of all…what is this mysterious state of anarchy we should all be afraid of? Secondly, to my knowledge, the societies with the highest level of free speech and civil liberties are also the most stable. Those where free speech is restricted and civil liberties infringed tend to be unstable, civil war-waging societies we would not want to compare ourselves with. I guess what most annoys me is that people make simplistic statements such as ‘too much free speech can cause a state of anarchy’ which then get picked up by other students and becomes something acceptable to say. Well, it’s not.

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